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September 8, 2022 9:21 pm

Unattended Agriculture Sector of J&K

A farmer sprinkles pesticides inside his vegetable field in the outskirts of Srinagar | KO File Photo, Abid Bhat

By Shabnam Ara and Aamir Ahmad Teeli

J&K economy ranks 21 in India in terms of contribution to the country’s GDP, contributing 0.77% to it. Despite many hurdles in the form of lockdown post abrogation of Article 370 and during COVID-19, J&K economy has shown resilience and figured among the top four states/Union Territories in the country in Gross Domestic State Product growth. The Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) increased at a CAGR of 8.51% between 2015-16 and 2020-21 to reach Rs. 1.76 trillion (US$ 24.28 billion). While J&K’s NSDP increased at a CAGR of 8.61% from 2015-16 to 2020-21 and reached Rs. 1.49 trillion (US$ 20.49 billion). The average annual growth of Net State Domestic Product at current prices during 1980-81 to 1999-2000 was 12.45 per cent for Jammu and Kashmir. J&K holds 26th position in India in terms of per cepta income with PCI of Rs. 1,04,889. The sectoral contribution which was 17.47% Pry sector, 28.09% secondary sector, 54.44% & services sector in 2011-12 has changed to 18.07% pry sector, 19.30% secondary sector & 62.63% services sector in 2020-21. Talking about the agriculture sector of J&K, it currently contributes 16% to GSDP and provides employment to 60% of UT’s population. The sector holds a very vital importance in UT’s growth and development trajectory. 35 lakh persons earn livelihood from the fruit industry in J&K. Horticulture is the major sub-sector of J&K’s agriculture sector which plays a key role in the economy of Union Territory. It generates approximately Rs 10,000 crore annually income and contributes 8 percent to Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP). During 2020-21 a production of 20.35 lakh MTs has been recorded.  The major fruits cultivated are Apple, Walnuts, Almonds, Pear, cherry and so on.  About 3.50 lakh tons of fruits are produced annually in J&K, out of which more than 2.00 lakh tons are exported to foreign countries. During the last three years, the UT has witnessed a record growth of around 55% in its exports. A large portion of this export growth consisted of agricultural products.  Unfortunately, this sector is lacking behind in terms of attention and fund allocation for its advancement.

The UT of Jammu and Kashmir had a total of 402.47 thousand hectares of land under cultivation in financial year 2022. Of this, 335 thousand hectares was utilized for fruit production. The production of vegetables accounted for 60 thousand hectares of cropland. The sector heavily relies on monsoons for its survival. Although there is introduction of artificial irrigation facilities in this sector, this sort of irrigation constitutes only a minute share.

While talking about the advancements the world has achieved in the field of technology, one would expect that problems and limitations of agriculture would have been solved. However, the ground reality is somewhat different.

The major issues the agriculture sector of J&K is facing includes poor irrigation facilities, miserable road connectivity, unfavorable marketing facilities, non-existence of cold store facilities, availability of poor quality pesticides and the list goes on. Observing the real time experience one can clearly see how discouraging it is becoming for farmers to continue practicing agricultural activities. Citing an experience here, around 6 years ago, one A-Quality apple box (5 layer) used to be sold at around Rs. 1000 and A-Quality apple box (4 layer) used to be sold at Rs. 800 to 900. 6 years passed on the price of same apple boxes currently stands at around Rs. 900 and 700 respectively. This means the price has actually decreased over the years, while the price of agricultural equipment, service prices and prices of products of other two sectors increased manifold over the same period of time. This clearly indicates the deteriorating terms of trade between the sectors and against the agriculture sector, leaving agriculturists at absolute disadvantage.

Adding salt to injury is the transportation facilities which are there to transport the agricultural produce to outside states as well as outside the country. With only a drizzle worth of rainfall, the national highway which connects the Kashmir region to the rest of the country stands closed for days. Agriculture products are perishable in nature; hence need to be timely transported to markets in order to fetch acceptable prices. Besides these issues there are problems like availability of poor quality pesticides and insecticides due to least monitoring by responsible agencies.

Keeping in view the importance and potential of the agriculture sector, due care and intervention is needed on the part of the government in order to uplift the lives of people engaged in agriculture. Most importantly, a balance needs to be maintained between agriculture prices and the other related prices so that goals of self-sufficiency can be achieved along with sustainable & inclusive growth and development.

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

  • The authors are Research Scholar Environmental Science and Research Scholar Economics respectively 

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